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Former Bronxville Resident Linda Payne Williams Dies November 16, 2016, at 73 PDF Print Email


By the Family

Dec. 14, 2016:  Linda Payne Williams, who raised millions of dollars for nonprofit causes, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, died on Wednesday, November 16, after a long bout with dementia. She was 73. She and her husband, Gurney Williams III, were longtime residents of Rye.

Williams grew up in Chappaqua and was graduated from Hollins College in 1965. After her 1967 marriage, she was a reporter with her husband for Newsday

She began her fundraising career in 1987 as a development officer at Sarah Lawrence College. During 13 years there, she was instrumental in expanding alumnae/i giving and growing the endowment. In 2000, she became director of principal gifts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She moved to the Fox Foundation three years later to continue her pursuit of large-gift support for medical research.

Michael J. Fox, diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991, wrote about her impact on the foundation during its early years in a foreword to her daughter Kimberly Williams-Paisley's 2016 memoir, Where the Light Gets In. "Linda Williams was one of those people who come into your life—friends, family members, sometimes colleagues—whose compassion for others and outlook on life resonate with you forever. As our foundation's first major gift fundraiser, she inspired our staff with her ability to convey to supporters both the complex neuroscience we were driving and the simple optimism that our efforts would speed a cure."

She was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia in 2005 at the age of 62. The earliest symptoms of the relatively rare dementia are losses in communication skills. Despite her growing struggle with speaking and writing in subsequent years, she remained at work. In the year of her diagnosis alone, she personally solicited and helped to secure gifts totaling more than $3.5 million for the foundation. She and her husband retired in 2007.

Williams was the mother of three children. Kimberly Williams-Paisley is an actress, author, and Alzheimer's Association spokesperson. Jay is a fire lieutenant with the Brentwood Fire Department in Brentwood, TN, and founder of Williams Honey Farm, an organic beekeeping company in nearby Franklin. Ashley Williams, also an actress, is known most recently for her work on the The Jim Gaffigan Show.

Williams is survived by her husband; her three children; and five grandchildren, Huck and Jasper Paisley, Jack and Samuel Williams, and Gus Dodson; and her sister, Diana Payne Getzelmann, of Chapel Hill, NC. 

A memorial service was held at Christ Church on Saturday, December 3. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association or The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.



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